Dear IQuilt Plan,
As your organization continues to link the parks of Hartford with great signs and “wayfinding” awareness, my classmates and I wanted to share a recent discovery about a courageous UGRR agent that might help you with your mission of creating a visual landscape to the cultural assets of downtown.
My project based learning class has been vigorously searching for more evidence of Underground Railroad activity in Suffield, Connecticut. We are doing this so that the people who jeopardized their own lives in order to help others can be recognized. Due to the secretive nature of the conductors of the Underground Railroad, evidence is scarce. Often the people who genuinely deserve recognition sadly do not get it. While we have yet to find undisputable evidence of a conductor living in Suffield, we have come across evidence of other people who were verifiably helping and giving aid to fugitive slaves. Henry Foster is a man who we have been able to verify as someone who aided fugitive slaves through multiple reliable sources. Here is a link to what we published on Twitter about our research steps: https://digitalcrowsnest.wordpress.com/2014/03/19/how-can-we-establish-an-historical-sign-for-henry-foster/
Our first source came to us when a classmates found an article by Steve Grant from the Hartford Courant. In this article, he noted that the black community in Hartford was aiding fugitive slaves to freedom. He cites a single instance where Foster helped a man named James L Smith through Hartford onto Springfield. We looked up the Smith narrative online, and believe that this source proves Foster was a member of the Underground Railroad. We found the same recognition of Foster in the William Green slave narrative. After these discoveries, we looked outwards for others to help us gain information about this man. The Connecticut Historical Society was able to provide us with his home address. He lived on Bliss Street in the 1850s; however, this street is now named Trinity Street. With this source, we gained verified proof of where Foster lived. Trinity Street runs through Bushnell Park, a regularly used park to many members of the community. Lastly, we found the Charter Oak Newspaper. This document gave public mention to many members of the Underground Railroad in Connecticut. The newspaper came out in 1850, and notes Foster as an active abolitionist, and a conductor for the Underground Railroad. With all of this evidence, our class is hoping that Foster will be recognized with some form of commemorative site on the edge of Bushnell Park nearest Trinity Street, not only for the recognition of the incredible things done by this man, but to provide the current and future members of that community with the historical recognition their community has earned.
I believe that a plaque or recognition on your downtown signs would recognize the heroism shown by Henry Foster. Even though he could have been put in jail, Foster showed us that there is still goodness in people. There are people out there looking out for more than themselves, and that is something we are losing in our society. We must understand and appreciate this kind of humanity this hero has displayed. Our class is hoping to find more people like Henry Foster in the interest of recognizing them in our own community because we understand the priceless value in it. We are currently working to commemorate the slaves buried in the Northwest corner of a local cemetery on North Main Street in Suffield.
The Underground Railroad is an underappreciated part of our history, and we are hoping to parter with you to create a commemoration for Henry Foster on Trinity Street in Bushnell Park. Thank you for your time and consideration.
The Project Based Learners at Suffield Academy